Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Memories of a Tornado

Sandy over at Oklahoma Transient wrote, a day or so ago, about a tornado that occurred in her area recently.  It brought back memories for me of a couple of tornadoes we experienced when living in Illinois.

The worst one happened one year in early spring.  At the time, my husband and I had been married for only a couple of years and were living in a 14' x 16' cabin on twenty wooded acres we owned with his parents out in the middle of farmland.  We were also driving fifty miles morning and night each week day to and from the town where I worked and he was finishing his college degree.

We usually got home around six each evening and on this particular day, we were a couple of miles from home when we began noticing unusual things.

A farm house on the left side of the highway had all the singles torn off one side of the roof.  We commented that since the weather had been unsettled lately, it was risky business to start a re-roofing job.

The next structure down the road was missing its whole roof and the big barn was leaning at a precarious angle.

We looked at each other and without saying a word, realizing something bad had happened.

Proceeding along and getting closer to home, we turned off the main highway onto a short gravel road which connected to our own country road.  Talk about feeling as if we'd entered the Twilight Zone.  At the junction of the highway and gravel road was Fredrickson's farm.  Or at least it was where Fredrickson's farm was supposed to be.  For a couple of seconds, we didn't know where we were.  The two-story farmhouse, the huge barn, the silos, all the various outbuildings, all the big old trees were . . . gone.  The land was perfectly flat.

As we neared the turnoff onto our road, we saw a very strange object in the field off to our left.  It looked like a huge piece of twisted metal.  As we got closer we saw the coloring was black and yellow.  It was what had been a school bus.  Our neighboring family had a five-year old son who rode that bus.

As we turned right onto our road, we felt some relief that the farm where the young boy lived looked as if it had sustained no damage.  A short mile down the road we turned into our own property, stopped in a hubby's parents' house and were updated on the storm that had passed through a few hours earlier. 

The tornado had gone down the opposite side of the road from our property which was so fortunate for us, not so much so for the farms and dwellings on that side.

The one most damaged was the farm of two elderly brothers and a sister who lived on and worked the old family farm.  The three of them made it into their root cellar but they lost most everything including many of their animals who had been out on pasture.

My father-in-law was coming home farther on down that same road when the tornado hit.  He was just ready to get out of his car and take shelter down under a concrete bridge over a small creek when he saw a farm tractor fly across the road a ways ahead of him.  Then, as quickly as that, the tornado was gone and he continued on home albeit with shaking hands on the steering wheel of the car.

Even though we personally suffered no damage from the tornado, needless to say there was a wide-spread area affected and much rebuilding to be done.

The wreckage of the school bus we had seen in the field?  Praises were heaped upon that bus driver.  He saw the funnel cloud coming and rather than trying to outrun it, he got all of the kids off the bus, down into the ditch beside the road, told the bigger kids to get on top of the little ones to protect them, and for them all to lie as flat as they could.  Only one child was hurt . . . a broken arm when hit by a piece of flying debris.

Tornadoes were one of the things we were glad to leave when we moved to northern Minnesota.  Even though we have plenty of strong winds up here that always make my nerves jumpy, we're very glad not to live in tornado country anymore.

23 comments:

Myrna said...

I can however remember tornados hitting the small town we grew up in, in southern Minnesota. And of course now that we live in Iowa this is a thing we live with. They sure are scary.

Mama Pea said...

Myrna - Oh, yes, Minnesota being such a loooong state and having a totally different climate between the north and south, I'm sure tornadoes happen in the southern part of the state. And Iowa is much like Illinois, I'm sure. Stay away from them, okay?

Mark said...

We kind of live on the northeast end of Tornado Alley and get a dozen or so, usual smaller EF1 or EF2's, a year. We've been witnesses to all the horrific things they bring but, by the grace of God, none of the extended family has lost a house. Several barns have gone down, some with the cattle inside. Lots of outbuilding and vehicle damage.

Part of my public service work with the Amateur Radio Emergency Service is serving as a National Weather Service storm spotter where we go out and watch for the beasts with the goal of improving early warnings for the local community. Requires an annual training class and is not too bad during the day, but a little unnerving at night when you spot by lightning and power flashes from tangled power lines. Eeek!

Laurie said...

We occasionally get a tornado warning, but I've never experienced one. Hope to keep it that way.

Dawn McHugh said...

Its something we dont get here, there has been the occasional small one but nothing on the scale you have across the pond

Vera said...

I recently watched some YouTube videos about tornadoes, especially the painful aftermath. Thank goodness that here in SW France we don't have them to deal with, although the year we arrived here there was a tremendous hurricane. We must have been in the eye of the hurricane and could hear the winds charging towards us from all directions. We were living in a caravan at the time. It was scary. So I do have a smidgeon of an idea about what it is like to be near, or in, a tornado.

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

A nasty tornado went through our community in southern Ontario when I was 12 years old. The sky turned green and then there was a torrential rain storm. The dog was acting funny like she wouldn't leave our side. We didn't realize what had happened until it was all over. Farms were taken out around us, huge hydro towers were twisted in heaps, sections of bush lots looked like they have been shaved off. For years and years after that you could still see pieces of metal siding wrapped around tree trunks. To this day, I have a healthy respect for weather and keep a watch on the sky. -Jenn

Marie said...

3/28/98 EF3 -- wiped out my office ... when the next one hits -- this chick will not be around .... I was so lucky -- my family, my office landlord and my clients got me thru it ... but never never again.

I can still vividly remember the sound of the snow plows heading down the street pushing debris out of the way to get emergency vehicles and personnel into town. Freeking awful.

Mama Pea said...

Mark - A dozen or so each year! Yikes. Your community is fortunate to have you and others who donate your time (and occasionally safety?) to the early warning program.

Mama Pea said...

Laurie - Tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes . . . all forces of nature, but not pleasant to experience. Hope you can keep it that way in your area!

Mama Pea said...

Dawn - And that's a good thing! :o]

Mama Pea said...

Vera - I can understand how that would have been so frightening. In our country, trailers or mobile homes are particularly vulnerable, as you can imagine.

Mama Pea said...

Jenn - Omigosh, in southern Ontario! I truly didn't realize that had ever happened. (Goes to show how ignorant we can be [I should say *I* can be] of what goes on outside our own small area.)

Mama Pea said...

Marie - Yes, living in beautiful southern Minnesota where you can actually grow things (!) like they do in Iowa, Illinois, etc. leaves you wide-open for the darn things. Sounds like you really experienced a bad one. The good thing is that you made it through!

gld said...

Well, we are basically in tornado alley, not as bad as Oklahoma, but remember that horror that hit Joplin, Mo. a few years ago? and before that one swiped through
Battlefield, Mo. and then there was that one small one that hit us. Knocked trees down in the front yard and we thought that was all until we went out in the yard a looked north on the farm and realized we did not have a pole barn !
Sheared off the poles and the metal fencing was scattered north all over. Some we could pick up and some are still wrapped around tree trunks like aluminum foil.

We go on alert when they issue tornado warnings now!

gld said...

That should be metal roofing.

Mama Pea said...

gld - I think most everyone remembers the Joplin tornado. Just awful. I sure hope there were no animals in your pole barn when it took the hit! Once you've experienced a tornado up close and personal you certainly DO go on alert when warnings are issued.

Leigh said...

Whew, what a story. Things like that make indelible memories, don't they?

Mama Pea said...

Leigh - Yes, they do! I'm sure millions (!) of memories fall through the cracks of our brain banks, but there are certainly others that remain vivid all our lives.

Susan said...

I had one and only one close encounter and I am sure it is why I break into a cold sweat anytime the wind picks up. That must have been quite an experience! I was on the edge of my seat!!!!!

Mama Pea said...

Susan - One close encounter is quite enough, isn't it?

Sandy said...

Mama Pea,

I know you'll never forget that day after seeing all the homes destroyed and that school bus. It's scary experiencing something you have no control over.

Last week we said our blessing, and left the rental home with our supplies (were always prepared), and eventually returned to a home still standing.

I think the Moore, OK tornado in 2013 will be the tornado that will stay with me. The area looked like a war zone.

Hugs,
Sandy

Mama Pea said...

Sandy - I good, soaking, summer storm is something many folks romanticize about, but when it gets to the stage of being tornado-ish, there's nothing good about that! Glad this last one passed you by.